Confusion about human growth hormone, or HGH, still reigns in bodybuilding circles. The controversies center around its real effects and the best ways to increase the
natural release of HGH in the body. While some researchers say that it has powerful anabolic effects in muscle and is a potent fat- mobilizing substance, others disagree.
Conversations with athletes who've used HGH reveal a consensus that it's better for losing fat than for building muscle. In addition, it's difficult to separate the true
effects of HGH from those of anabolic steroids, which many athletes use concurrently with it.
Certain facts about HGH are beyond dispute, however. HGH is synthesized in the anterior pituitary gland and consists of a specific configuration of 191 amino acids that
are held together with two disulfide bonds. The average adult's body produces about one milligram a day. The hormone circulates in the blood for an hour or so and is then
degraded in the liver. An important aspect of HGH is that it's released in short bursts throughout the day depending on several factors.
HGH promotes the production in the liver of a substance called insulin like growth factor-I, or IGF-I, that lasts much longer than HGH. The name is derived from the fact
that the structure of IGF-I strongly resembles that of insulin. Because insulin is a highly anabolic hormone, IGF-f is considered by many to be a potent anabolic substance
as well, particularly in muscle.
The highest daily HGH spike usually occurs during the first 90 minutes of sleep, especially in the deeper sleep cycles. Older and obese people often don't experience this
surge, however. The high nocturnal HGH release explains why growth-hormone-releasing nutritional supplements, such as various amino acids and GABA, are taken before sleep,
as some experts believe that these supplements augment the body's output.
While many aspects of human physiology influence HGH release, it's beyond the scope of this article to discuss them all in full. Instead, we'll focus on a few controversies
concerning the use of the hormone as an ergogenic bodybuilding aid.
All in the Mind?
According to researcher Kevin F. Yarasheski of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, HGH gets an F when it comes to building muscle. Last year Yarasheski
conducted a study in which he gave 40 units of HGH per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of bodyweight five days a week to healthy but sedentary young men. For the experiment the men
participated in a 12-week bodybuilding program to test whether using HGH in conjunction with exercise would lead to increased muscle protein synthesis and strength.
The results showed that the group using HGH made exactly the same gains as another group that followed an identical training program and were given a placebo. Since the subjects
in this initial study were rank beginners, Yarasheski wondered if giving HGH to more advanced trainees might produce different effects. So for his next study he worked with
seven young men) average age 23, all of whom had trained with intensity three to six days a week for at least the past three years.
Yarasheski gave these subjects injections of HGH for two weeks and found no increase in muscle protein synthesis and no decreased catabolic effects in muscle despite an elevated
level of circulating IGF-1. Although this study was admittedly short term, Yarasheski believes that even a longer cycle of HGH use would produce similar results. While it appears
that Yarasheski's results conflict with the supposedly real-world experiences of athletes, you may recall that few athletes have ever used HGH alone. If we look at pathological
situations in which excessive HGH is the norm, as in giantism, we find that myopathy, or muscle weakness, is common.
In fact, those unfortunate people whose bodies produce larger amounts of HGH because of pituitary tumors often have large but weak muscles. This suggests that the muscle produced
by HGH stimulation may be due to increases in connective tissue rather than increased muscle contractile protein synthesis. If we assume that procedures that promote the normal
release of UGH in the body maybe beneficial to bodybuilding, however, the question becomes, What are the best methods for getting this result? As noted, many bodybuilders use
amino acids as a means of increasing HGH release. Although several aminos can accomplish this, the most potent is arginine and its analog, ornithine. Past studies have shown
that giving subjects huge doses of arginine 30 grams, or 30,000 milligrams does cause a definite HGH release.
The effect is so reliable that arginine infusion was once used to test HGH release in children, but the key word here is 'infusion." In the studies that documented HGH augmentation,
the arginine was given intravenously. Doses of arginine or ornithine that are large enough to promote HGH release cause nausea in many people. Even so, an off-quoted 1981 Italian
study used amounts of only 1200 milligrams each of arginine and lysine, and that led to a 700 percent increase in plasma HGH and a 200 percent increase in blood insulin levels. A
major flaw of this experiment was that the subjects were sedentary young men who didn't work out. The study has never been replicated, and only 10 percent of people who use amino
acid GH releasers get any benefit.
Several factors enter into this equation that are often overlooked, however. For one, you must take these GH releasers arginine or ornithine or both without any other form of amino
acids or protein. Any amino acids that are circulating in the blood will effectively compete with the GM aminos for entry into the brain, and the net effect is a nullified HGH
release. You must also have a lowered blood glucose level, which means that you haven't eaten any meals recently that contained fat or carbohydrate To get any possible effect from
GH, there must be least four hours separating the amino intake from your last meal. A relatively low blood sugar level is a major impetus for GH release, so taking a carbohydrate
supplement or eating a meal before training will also probably blunt HGH release.
Since acetylcholine is the brain chemical that scientists believe for OH release, so taking a carbohydrate supplement or eating a meal before training will also probably blunt
HGH release. Since acetylcholine is the brain chemical that scientists believe interacts in HOE release that is caused by amino acids or exercise, it may be helpful to optimize
acetylcholine synthesis by providing natural precursors. Although many suggest taking choline for this purpose, choline has two drawbacks 1) It can't easily enter the brain, and 2)
intestinal bacteria tend to degrade it into a substance called triniethylamine, which gives your body a distinct odor of dead fish.
A better choice is a supplement called dimethylaminoethanol, or DMAE, which the body converts into choline. DMAE can easily enter the brain and be converted into acetyicholine.
Adding the B-complex vitamin pantothenic acid completes the brew by providing an element from the acetyl group. A newer supplement, ornithine alpha-ketogluterate, or OKG, may be more
effective than the usual amino acids because it appears to promote IGF-I synthesis and potently stimulate HGH release.
As for exercise, research shows that the best way to train for maximal HGH release is to keep your rest periods between sets to a minute or less and use moderately heavy weights,
performing no more than 10 reps per set. Recent studies show that during exercise the direct stimulus to 1-1GM release is the hydrogen ion concentration of the blood. In simple terms,
the burning feeling you get while lifting weights after an intense set signals the brain to release growth hormone. Even so, the release is affected by the necessity of maintaining high
intensity by using moderately heavy poundages. This means that doing high-rep sets with light weights may cause a burning sensation in muscles, but won't promote HGH release.
Obviously, it's not a great idea to take supplements that supposedly inhibit lactic acid, such as the various buffer combinations now on the market, if you want maximum growth hormone
release during exercise.